Bryant shoots lights out to beat UMass 93-88

  • UMass freshman Cairo McCrory drives on Bryant’s Charles Pride, Monday at the Mullins Center. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/21/2020 8:07:03 PM

Bryant was exactly what the UMass men’s basketball team thought it would be.

The Bulldogs shot 3-pointers and pushed the pace, and the Minutemen couldn’t keep up in a 93-88 loss, Monday at the Mullins Center.

They hit 9 of 21 3-pointers. UMass also made nine 3s, but it took the Minutemen (2-2) 34 attempts.

Bryant (7-2) caught fire in the first half. The Bulldogs shot 69 percent from the field and made 5 of 11 3s, including three in a row after an opening miss to build a 15-7 lead.

“We started the game off slow,” UMass senior Carl Pierre said. “We allowed them to get into a rhythm, and it showed.”

UMass pulled ahead 3-2 after a three-point play by Pierre. He led the Minutemen with a season-high 23 points.

The lead lasted 14 seconds. Peter Kiss canned his first 3 on the next possession, and Bryant never looked back, despite UMass tying the game late.

“We were almost shell-shocked with how fast they play,” UMass coach Matt McCall said.

Bryant scored 26 fast-break points. Four Bulldogs reached double digits. Michael Green III swished four 3s en route to a career-high 33 points. Peter Kiss added 21 points, while Chris Childs (three 3s) had 14 and Charles Pride scored 11.

“They didn’t prepare as well as they should have for us,” Green said. “The way we play, everything was open.”

The Bulldogs kept the pressure on to start the second half. They opened the frame on an 11-2 run that pushed the lead to 17 on a Green 3.

“Our defense was not very good, but we felt if we could get two or three guys going against their defense we could have some success,” McCall said. “We scored enough points to win, but we gave up way, way too many.”

UMass had its greatest success at the free-throw line. The Minutemen made 25 of 29 free throws, both of which were season highs.

Bryant let them back in the game with 22 turnovers, which UMass converted into 23 points.

The Minutemen were in the bonus most of the second half and used their many trips to the line to crawl back into the game.

“If you saw some of our defensive rotations late in the game when we got back in the game we had terrific effort,” McCall said. “We play the whole game with that effort, we win.”

Tre Mitchell cut the lead to 71-63 with a 3-pointer with 8:31 remaining. Mitchell finished with 12 points on nine shots. He’s averaged 11 points in UMass’ two losses and broke 30 in both of its wins.

Bryant’s 6-foot-8 center Hall Elisias made Mitchell’s life challenging in the paint and defended the rim with five blocked shots.

“A lot of our guys know these players. They know how good Tre Mitchell is supposed to be,” Bryant coach Jared Grasso said. “For our kids, it’s a chance to prove something.”

The Minutemen kept chipping away.

Noah Fernandes made it a six-point game after he hit a 3 with 7:32 left. He picked up two fouls within 10 seconds two minutes later to put Bryant in the bonus. Green missed the front end of a one-and-one, and UMass freshman Javohn Garcia drew two foul shots with a drive. He made it a one-possession game after sinking both to pull UMass to 79-76.

Bryant established a seven-point lead with 4:06 remaining, but UMass continued its parade to the free-throw line to keep close. Cairo McCrory made two foul shots to cut it to four with 3:14 left, then T.J. Weeks sank one to make it an 84-81 game with 2:52 left.

Weeks wasn’t done. The redshirt freshman stole a pass on Bryant’s next possession then tied the game at 84 with a 3 with just 2:09 left.

Hall missed a layup for Bryant, and McCory sealed the rebound and a chance for the lead. Pierre missed a jumper from the foul line, and the Bulldogs put the game away with a 9-4 run. Green hit a layup with 1:03 left to go back ahead, and Weeks turned the ball over on UMass’ next possession.

“Being that we are a young team, a lot of guys haven’t been in situations like that, and a couple times our execution showed as a result of that,” Pierre said.

Bryant made 7 of 8 free throws down the stretch to secure its best start in program history.

“Very, very disappointing with our approach,” McCall said. “We have a talented basketball team but we can’t – and this is the second time this has happened – think that we can just show up and win a game.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.

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